By Gene Shelburne
As God’s people, we have one common bond: All of us have brought our sins to Jesus. And that is what brings us around his table.
How sad, then, that many of us spend so much energy trying to conceal our sinfulness! Why does the church often become an exercise in pretending we are perfect?
The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “The modern world does not believe in sin. . . . It used to be that we Catholics were the only ones in the world who believed in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Today every American believes he is immaculately conceived. He is not a sinner; he is sick.”
“If we confess our sins,” the Bible assures us, the Lord “is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Unfortunately, the recipients of that promise often choose to maintain a charade of pious perfection in the name of Christ.
C.S. Lewis warned, “Those who do not think about their own sins make up for it by thinking incessantly about the sins of others.” Jesus seems to have had something like that in mind when he told the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who both went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee who was so proud of his own goodness was equally repulsed by the sins of others.
Lebanese writer, poet, and artist Kahlil Gibran was on target when he said, “If we were all to sit in a circle and confess our sins, we would laugh at each other for lack of originality.”
We all are weak human beings beset by the same frailties and follies. Greed and pride and fears and wrath debase the best of us and give us a great deal in common with the worst of us.
At Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the participants always identify themselves before they speak. “Hi,” they say, “I’m Jim (or Joe, or Tom, or Susie). I’m an alcoholic.” Maybe we should say something similar when we gather to share the Lord’s Supper. “Hi. I’m [whoever]. I’m a sinner.” Just like you.
Gene Shelburne has served as the pulpit minister at the Anna Street Church in Amarillo, Texas, for 49 years. He is senior editor of the Christian Appeal and his column “Cross Currents” appears in several newspapers, including the Amarillo Globe News. He has written four books, including The God Who Puts Us Back Together.